Thursday, November 30, 2006


It is something one half of the population has long suspected, and the other has always vocally denied: women talk more than men. In fact, women talk almost three times as much, uttering a staggering 20,000 words a day on average compared to men's 7000. They speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat and get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a female psychiatrist suggests.

In her book, The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says the disparity is caused by differences in the male and female brain. The sex hormone testosterone, responsible for moulding the male brain in the womb, shrinks the areas responsible for communication, emotion and memory, she claims. The result is that men chat less than females and struggle to express their emotions to the same extent. In contrast, women have more brain cells set aside for communication. And the act of talking triggers a flood of chemicals which gives them a rush similar to that felt by heroin addicts on a high.

Dr Brizendine, who runs a female "mood and hormone" clinic in the US and describes herself as a feminist, said testosterone also reduces the size of the section of the brain involved in hearing, allowing men to become "deaf" to the most logical of arguments put forward by women. Their brain power, however, is definitely superior when it comes to sex. Dr Brizendine believes the area responsible for sexual thoughts is twice as big in male brains. Studies have shown that, while a man will think about sex every 52 seconds, the subject crosses women's minds just once a day, said said.

Dr Brizendine, whose findings are based on her analysis of more than 1000 scientific studies, added: "There is no unisex brain. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are what drive their impulses, values and their very reality." Other scientists, however, are sceptical about the effects of testosterone on the brain. Deborah Cameron, an Oxford University linguistics professor, said the amount we talk is influenced by the social environment we live in.


Censorship = Tolerance and Diversity?

Sometimes even obvious possibilities may not be mentioned

Satoshi Kanazawa, a virtually unknown professor of evolutionary psychology at the London School of Economics (LSE), has published in the pages of the British Journal of Health Psychology an article suggesting that ill-health and poverty in less-developed countries in Africa can be blamed on low IQs. Predictably, student activists have circulated an electronic petition across Europe calling on the well-known school to stand up for tolerance and diversity--by condemning Kanazawa.

Thankfully, these self-appointed do-gooders are off to a slow start. At the time I finished editing this column, the student petition, "LSE Lecturer: Research or Racism?" had only 151 signatures. Needless to say, I was not one of its signatories. It's not that I support Kanazawa (I don't even know who he is). Rather, I consider the petition's aim to be nothing more than a call for censorship. I'm not sure I like that.

I also bristle anytime student activists and other pimple-faced do-gooders decide what views or opinions I should be protected from. But more than anything else, the petition embodies the worst kind of political correctness and is, with no hyperbole intended, fundamentally dangerous to the very idea of academic freedom.

In my way of thinking, if you really aim to be diverse and tolerant--as an individual, institution, or society--then I think freedom of thought and liberty of opinion (no matter how objectionable) is fundamental. I am therefore perplexed by a petition that calls for institutional condemnation of a professor. How can censorship of a particular view--no matter how obtuse or misguided it may be--be equated to standing up for tolerance and diversity?

Now, let's be up-front about things here: Racist or racialist theories are repugnant. And Kanazawa may be shown to have, in the end, some questionable views. But I'm not ready to label him a racist or eugenicist yet since I haven't read his article (and I'm not about to blindly trust the British tabloids). His publishing record is certainly provocative and includes such choice works as "Why beautiful people are more intelligent", "You can judge a book by its cover", and "The myth of racial discrimination in pay in the US".

But the truth is I am not in the least bit interested in discussing Kanazawa or his article. What concerns me is the well-intentioned but wholly misguided reactions to his ideas. In other words, the problem is not Kanazawa but the LSE petition and the authoritarian liberals signing it. Their morally righteous and knee-jerk reaction to ideas deemed "dangerous" frankly terrifies me much more than Kanazawa himself

To be sure, this is the first that any of us studying journalism here have ever heard of Kanazawa. But I have little doubt that the Kanazawa story will get bigger in the coming weeks--especially as the petition spreads and if the LSE continues to admirably defend the professor's right to publish controversial research.

Of course, in the US, we've seen this all before: earlier this year, when John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their paper "The Israel Lobby"; in, 2005, when Larry Summers at Harvard raised questions about gender and academic achievement in mathematics; in 2004, when Samuel Huntington published Who Are We?, on America's national identity and Hispanic immigration; in 1994, when Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein co-wrote The Bell Curve. It's no different on the other side of the Atlantic. In March, Leeds University forced the early retirement of a professor accused of racism because he supported the ideas of Murray and Herrnstein (which have, by the way, almost nothing to do with race but everything to do with the erosion of social cohesion in the US). And incidents of political correctness abound in England and across the Euro-zone.

That's why with regards to Kanazawa, I am surprised that the LSE hasn't yet fired him. (The last time I saw this kind of back-bone in defense of free speech was when the Danish government refused to condemn the news daily Jyllands-Posten for publishing a dozen cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.)

What to do about Kanazawa? Laissez faire, laissez aller, laissez passer. Let him continue to put his ideas into circulation--by publishing articles, lecturing, giving provocative presentations--and watch just how quickly the marketplace of ideas at the LSE and elsewhere will churn with indignant responses to his outrageous claims. I have no doubt that his work will eventually serve as a catalyst for others to carry out their own research. Some of these researchers will overwhelm him with reams of new data. Others may eventually (si Deus vult) prove him flat-out wrong--and effectively reduce him to academic irrelevance.

But liberty of thought and mind is vital. And if there is one place in the world where crack-pot ideas can be discussed and hair-brained schemes explored without fear of retribution it should be in the halls of academe. It is precisely because the LSE is a diverse and tolerant [academic] institution that it should do nothing about Kanazawa and leave the professor to his fever swamps. Let the student petitioners gnash their teeth.


Starbucks again in the sights of the success-haters

Starbucks was accused yesterday of "playing Russian roulette" with its brand as a row over prices for Ethiopian coffee farmers intensified. As an Oxford academic lambasted the American coffee shops chain, Jim Donald, Starbucks' chief executive, was preparing to visit Ethiopia tomorrow for talks with Meles Zenawi, its Prime Minister, The Times has learnt.

Douglas Holt, the L'Or‚al Professor of Marketing at Oxford University's Said Business School, accused Starbucks of hypocrisy and abuse of power and said that the company was in danger of damaging its name among its educated middle-class customers by opposing Addis Ababa's attempts to trademark Ethiopia's coffee varieties in the United States.

The international coffee chain had worked hard to cultivate a progressive image, selling fair trade and "ethical" products and promoting sustainable development among the poorest coffee-growers, he said. "In their rash attempt to shut down Ethiopia's applications, [Starbucks] have placed the Starbucks brand in significant peril. Starbucks customers will be shocked by the disconnect between their current perceptions of Starbucks' ethics and the company's actions against Ethiopia," he said. He claimed that Starbucks' stance was likely to hit profits much harder than any price rises brought about by trademarking.

Oxfam said last month that the Ethiopian growers selling to Starbucks earned between 75 cents and $1.60 a pound on beans that Starbucks sold at up to $26 (13.40 pounds sterling) a pound. The aid organisation issued a strongly worded statement accusing Starbucks of actively blocking Ethiopia's trademark bid.

Starbucks, in turn, denied this and issued a statement demanding that Oxfam stop its attack. Oxfam took out full-page advertisements on the issue in The New York Times and two Seattle-based newspapers. Starbucks said that trademarks were not the best way to help growers and suggested a regional certification alternative that it said was used in many countries to brand premium food and wine. It made no sense, the company said, for trademarks to be geographically based, as in the Ethiopian application for three regional names. Starbucks added that it consistently paid premium bean prices and that between 2002 and 2006 it had quadrupled its Ethiopian coffee purchases.

"We support the recognition of the source of our coffees and have a deep appreciation for the farmers that grow them," the company said. "We are committed to working collaboratively and continuing dialogue with key stakeholders to find a solution that benefits Ethiopian coffee farmers. We have had recent conversations with Oxfam about planning logistics for a stakeholder summit. "Our investment in social development projects and providing access to affordable loans . . . has been recognised for its leadership within the industry," it said.

Getachew Mengistie, the director-general of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office, said that Addis Ababa had studied the merits of both trademarks and certification and found that trademarks would strengthen the position of farmers, enabling them to get a reasonable return for their product.

Professor Holt said: "With a certification mark, Starbucks and other Western coffee marketers would still have full control over Ethiopian coffee brands." Trademarks would require licences for companies wanting to use the names - giving the coffee producers a commercial asset that they could control.

Starbucks declined to confirm or deny Mr Donald's visit. Oxfam said that it had invited supporters to fax Mr Donald in protest and that more than 70,000 people had done so. "Speciality coffees in other regions of the world can get up to 45 per cent of the retail price, compared with the 5 to 10 per cent Ethiopians are currently receiving," Oxfam said. "We're meeting with Starbucks again next week and are hoping there can be progress." Ethiopia's growers could earn $88 million more per year with trademarks, it said. Starbucks declined to respond directly to Professor Holt's comments.

Brian Smith, research fellow at Cranfield University and author of Guarding the Brand, questioned Professor Holt's assertions. He said that Western consumers had limited sympathy with subsistence farmers in Africa and although they might be prepared to pay 5p more for a fair trade latte, they might not walk an extra 50 yards to another coffee shop to avoid Starbucks and its policy on trademarks. "I don't see this doing Starbucks significant long-lasting harm . . . Starbucks will handle this in an intelligent manner, offering an alternative," he said.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Anti-Christmas idiocy is receding worldwide this year but not yet in Chicago

A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.

New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event. The decision had both the studio and a prominent Christian group shaking their heads. "The last time I checked, the first six letters of Christmas still spell out Christ," said Paul Braoudakis, spokesman for the Barrington, Ill.-based Willow Creek Association, a group of more than 11,000 churches of various denominations. "It's tantamount to celebrating Lincoln's birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln." He also said that there is a nativity scene in Daley Plaza - and that some vendors at the festival sell items related to the nativity.

The city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another, said Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events. She acknowledged there is a nativity scene, but also said there will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups. She stressed that the city did not order organizers to drop the studio as a sponsor. "Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the office, said in a statement.

Officials with the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, which has organized the event for several years, did not immediately return calls for comment. The festival started Thursday.

An executive vice president with New Line Cinema, Christina Kounelias, said the studio's plan to spend $12,000 in Chicago was part of an advertising campaign around the country. Kounelias said that as far as she knew, the Chicago festival was the only instance where the studio was turned down. Kounelias said she finds it hard to believe that non-Christians who attended something called Christkindlmarket would be surprised or offended by the presence of posters, brochures and other advertisements of the movie. "One would assume that if (people) were to go to Christkindlmarket, they'd know it is about Christmas," she said.



The scandalous way that Labour has allowed State handouts to undermine marriage was exposed last night. A newlywed couple revealed how they were told by a Government welfare official: "You'd get more money if you split up." Janet and Mark Fensome were advised by their local Job Centre that if they wanted extra money in handouts, the best thing to do was to get divorced because under existing rules, couples who live apart get more. They had married three weeks earlier and were shocked to find out that the welfare official was right - but they refused to take the advice and complained to their MP.

The Job Centre's manager later apologised for the advice and said the official had acted wrongly. But aides to Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton has confirmed that, technically, the official was right: if the Fensomes had split up they would get an extra 25 pounds a week - or 1,250 a year. The Tories claimed that this showed how Labour has downgraded marriage and encouraged family break-ups by making it profitable to become single parents. Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Andrew Selous, who by chance is the Fensomes' MP, said: "John Hutton says he wants to encourage families together but Job Centres are telling people to do the opposite."

Mrs Fensome, of Houghton Regis, near Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, said: "We went to sort out a problem with our benefits after we came back from our honeymoon in Blackpool. "The woman at the Job Centre said, "If only you were split up and you were both single, it would be much easier to deal with and you would get more money too." I couldn't believe it." Mother-of-four Mrs Fensome, 41, who is training to be a marriage guidance counsellor, married engineer Mark on September 9. She helps with the local Cubs and Scouts and gave up work to care for her two infirm parents. Mr Fensome has been with the same engineering firm for more than 20 years but has been off work on incapacity benefit since suffering a nervous breakdown. For most of his time off work, Mr Fensome, 44, did not claim a penny in benefits and lived off his savings. When The Mail on Sunday visited the family yesterday, one of Mrs Fensome's teenage sons was practising the clarinet and another was doing his maths homework.

After their honeymoon in Blackpool paid for by friends and family, the couple went to Dunstable Job Centre Plus to sort out their benefit entitlements as a married couple. "The Government says it believes in families and yet it is advising people to part to claim more benefits. It doesn't make sense,' said Mrs Fensome. They were so shocked by the advice, they went to Bedfordshire South West MP Mr Selous, who complained to the head of Bedfordshire Job Centres. "I told him it was completely out of order,' said Mr Selous. "He apologised and said the official should not have said it and it was not their policy to advise people to break up. I want an assurance that this is not happening in other Job Centres."

The tax and benefits attack on marriage under Labour started when Gordon Brown abolished the married couples' tax allowance. The Tories claim the new system for helping people with children is biased against couples because single-parent families get the same amount in tax rebates as a couple where one parent stays at home to bring up the children. There are other handouts where couples can claim more by breaking up. Divorced couples can claim two portions of housing benefit and council tax rebate. Single parents get a 22.20 housing benefit premium. The unemployed can also claim more in income support and job seekers' allowance. In both cases a couple who split up can claim an additional 25 pounds a week. A single person gets 57.45 a week in income support. A couple who are both claiming receive a total of 90.10, or 45.05 each. The difference for two people is 24.80 a week or 1,289.60 a year.

A total of 200 million pounds of income support was claimed fraudulently last year - 130million going to people claiming to be lone parents. The Department for Work and Pensions launched a campaign last month to crack down on people pretending to live alone to get more. Billboard posters show a woman standing in a circle with the slogan: "But pretending I live on my own doesn't make me a benefits thief." The Department of Work and Pensions said: "The rate of benefits paid to couples reflects the lower cost of shared living expenses. It costs more for a single person to run a household than a couple."


Australia: "National identity" trumps "multiculturalism"

The term "multiculturalism" is out and "shared identity" is in under a new framework for Australian society. The Federal Government yesterday moved to redefine what it means to be a nation that accommodates people from many ethnic backgrounds and different parts of the world. In an address to the Australian National University, parliamentary secretary for immigration Andrew Robb said the term "multiculturalism" which had loosely defined Australia's ethnic policy for the past 30 years was vague and open to misinterpretation and abuse. "Some Australians worry that progressively the term multicultural has been transformed by some interest groups into a philosophy, a philosophy which puts allegiances to original culture ahead of national loyalty, a philosophy which fosters separate development, a federation of ethnic cultures, not one community," he said.

The Howard Government has long been a critic of so-called "mushy" multiculturalism. But this is the first time an alternative doctrine has been articulated. It is part of wider debate on Australian values and the failure of some Muslim immigrants to integrate, including a proposal by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley to make all new arrivals in Australia sign a values pledge. Fuelling the debate was the universally condemned statement last month by Australia's leading Muslim cleric, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, comparing immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat.

Mr Robb said shared values - not a shared homeland - should be the "glue that binds" Australians. "A shared identity is not about imposing uniformity. It is about a strong identification with a set of core values, whilst permitting a large measure of personal freedom and 'give and take'." Mr Robb said said simply "co-habitating a space" was not a strong basis for a cohesive, trusting society. "A community of separate cultures fosters a rights mentality, rather than a responsibilities mentality. It is divisive. It works against quick and effective integration," he said. "Those who come here should unite behind a core set of values, a shared identity."

Labor's citizenship spokeswoman Annette Hurley said changing a word would not improve a sense of shared identity. "I think the public is looking for some action," she said.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Extremist views? Bring them on, we're ready

By Mick Hume

Back when I was a revolting revolutionary student, Labour students who ran university unions operated under the delusion that shutting up their opponents was the same as defeating them. Thus they demanded “No platform” for everybody from “fascists” (which included Tory ministers) to Zionists or the Moonies. Twenty-five years later those student politicians are running the country. And to judge by the Government’s new guidelines about Islamic radicalism on campus, they have learnt nothing.

The guidelines issued by Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, tell universities how to combat “violent extremism in the name of Islam” by spotting extremists, banning outside speakers or informing the police. Just about everything, in fact, except the one thing that’s needed: some good arguments to explode the conspiracy theories of Islamic radicals.

Despite insisting that the Government supports freedom of expression, the guidelines’ definition of “unacceptable extremism” lumps “incitement of social[?], racial or religious hatred” in with terrorist acts, as if words and bombs were more or less equally dangerous.

There should be room for intellectual “extremism” of all sorts at university, the one place where young people ought to be free to experiment with ideas as well as everything else. Yet these days our ivory towers look more like fortresses of intolerance. Lecturers are wary of raising edgy questions that might offend some students, while freedom-phobic student union leaders seek to outlaw whatever-phobic words or images.

If debate is suppressed and the crazed ideas and conspiracies of Islamic radicals are never openly challenged, they can only fester and spread. Any attempt to silence them increases their credibility. And guidelines that leave the impression that the Government is afraid of a few bearded students are even better publicity for these groups.

Somebody needs to throw some intellectual grenades into university life, with arguments to incite hatred of illiberalism, whether it is offered “in the name of” Islam or of combating Islamophobia. Instead the only argument the guidelines propose concerns the radicals’ “distorted interpretation of Islamic texts”. Students can look forward to more sermons about the real meaning of being a Muslim from those noted Islamic scholars in new Labour.

Back in my day I recall one Labour union official with a megaphone, ordering Manchester University students to ignore Moonie leaflets. “These people want to brainwash you! DON’T LISTEN TO A WORD THEY SAY!” So in the name of free-thinking, you tell students what not to think about. Today, who needs a megaphone when you have the Minister for Higher Education?


Diversity is divisive

A new manifesto looks set to kickstart a debate about how multiculturalism fosters tribalism and political victimhood.

The manifesto of the New Generation Network (NGN), published this week, has thrown out an impressive challenge to improve the national conversation about racism. Amongst other things, the manifesto calls for a proper debate about multiculturalism, an end to ‘communal politics’, and it criticises self-appointed ethnic ‘community leaders’ for hijacking certain issues (read the manifesto in full here). Perhaps inevitably, much of the debate it has provoked so far is focused on the comments about self-appointed leaders. However, these issues can only be fully understood in the context of official anti-racism measures that have been built up over the past two decades.

As NGN states, we have come a long way since the first Race Relations Act was created in 1976. Back then, racist attacks were more common and prejudice more evident in the immigration service, police, employment, housing and education. Thirty years on, racism is clearly in decline, thanks to the efforts of many progressive activists and the gradual cultural integration of ethnic groups in society.

Yet in many ways, our society is much more anxious about race than before. Early findings from the 2005 Home Office Citizenship survey show that nearly half of all people (48 per cent) questioned believed that racism had got worse in the past five years. This was a rise from 43 per cent in 2001. White people were more likely to say this than ethnic minorities, suggesting that perception does not reflect the reality experienced by most people.

Why has this strange paradox emerged? While people from ethnic minority backgrounds are today less likely to confront old-fashioned racism, they are much more likely to confront multicultural policies and practises that racialise them. The principle of equality – that all people should be treated the same regardless of their skin colour or ethnic background – has now been replaced with the principle of diversity, where all cultural identities must be given public recognition. While this sounds nice and inclusive in principle, the overall effect is that people are being treated differently, which fuels a sense of exclusion.

The ‘race relations industry’ has expanded massively on the back of government policies, legislation and funding. Most public services – housing, healthcare, arts and cultural provision, voluntary support, public broadcasting, and policing – have strategies to accommodate the supposedly different needs of ethnic users. Many organisations now have targets to ensure they are employing enough ethnic minorities.

The effect of such measures, however, is not to get rid of racial categories, but to reinforce their grip on our consciousness. For example, there has been much debate about the lack of ethnic minorities in the media and arts sectors. The reasons are complex, and can be explained by different aspirations, socioeconomic factors and cultural expectations (many of which also affect the white working class).

But the dominance of racial thinking leads to the simplistic explanation that the ‘white male establishment’ is full of bigots. This leads to positive discrimination schemes that put ethnicity before talent, and results in the hired hand being sent to work in this or that department as the unofficial spokesperson for their ‘community’. No wonder these individuals then think there is racism in the sector where they work, when they are so obviously treated as ‘the token ethnic’. Diversity policies often appear as the flipside of old racial thinking, making us see people’s ethnicity first and their (often diverse) talents and interests second.

The most pernicious effect of this new racial thinking is how it fosters tribalism between ethnic and religious groups. They end up competing for resources on the basis that they are more excluded and vulnerable than others. Some Muslim lobby groups have argued that Christian groups already have public funding for their schools and services, so they should, too. In response, there are now Hindu and Sikh organisations demanding their own concessions lest they feel left out. The demand to wear the headscarf one day spurs the demand to wear the crucifix the next. There is a perverse incentive to assert one’s victimisation by others, rather than build alliances. In this climate, no wonder everyone thinks that racism and discrimination is rife.

To challenge the dominance of identity politics, we need to champion an alternative universalist approach. This wouldn’t mean bland similarity, with everybody talking and looking the same. Instead, it would help us challenge the imposition of formal, ethnic categories and allow us to develop richer differences based on character and interests.

A major step towards the universalist approach would be to dismantle the countless diversity policies that encourage people to see everything through the prism of racial difference. We should get rid of ‘tick box’ measures that do nothing to address underlying inequality in areas like employment. And we should interrogate the claims of victimisation made by some organisations to get their slice of pie. If the NGN will help to expose some of the damage being done in the name of diversity, I welcome it.


Long Beach, Calif.: Hate crime charges filed against black youths: "Eight black youths have been charged with hate crimes and felony assault in the brutal beating of three white women on Halloween night. The youths _ seven girls and one boy _ pleaded not guilty Wednesday. If convicted, they face punishments ranging from probation to confinement in a youth facility. The attack happened at a Halloween block party in the posh Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach known for elaborate Halloween decorations and fancy candy. Police said the black youths hurled racial insults at the women -- two 19-year-olds and a 21-year-old -- and punched and kicked them. One was hit with a skateboard and both suffered broken bones and other injuries. They said the attackers shouted, "I hate whites" and other profanities during the assault. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People expressed dismay over the incident and said the organization would monitor the case to ensure a fair trial."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Liberty belle becomes a pin-up for extremism

Shami Chakrabarti is to Britain’s intelligentsia what Posh Spice was to teenage girls. Well, if success and celebrity are synonymous. Always available to perform on the Today programme or in the columns of serious newspapers, the director of Liberty has made herself the closest thing this country possesses to an intellectual pin-up girl. But in making her instant opinions so universally available she has done little for the cause she claims to promote.

The core challenge to democracy since September 11, 2001, has been to achieve proportionality between the competing priorities of individual liberty and public protection. Ms Chakrabarti has come down relentlessly on the quasi-anarchist side of the debate. Her defence of individual rights against collective needs takes the demos out of democracy and leaves her organisation marooned on the extra-parliamentary left of politics.

In her enthusiasm to see the good in every terrorist suspect and a heart of unalloyed evil in each successive Home Secretary, the lady from Liberty has revealed extraordinary naivety about Labour’s favourite tactic. Acquired from Bill Clinton, the trick known as triangulation seeks to popularise government policy by contrasting it with the views of unpopular minorities. Ms Chakrabarti never rejects the invitation to play the extremist.

Almost single-handedly she has shifted the civil liberties lobby so far beyond the parameters of mainstream opinion that ministers pray she will oppose them. Their logic is simple: if Liberty objects, Middle Britain will automatically conclude that a policy is pure common sense.

Ms Chakrabarti easily achieved her ambition to reassert Liberty’s prominence after its name change from the National Council for Civil Liberties. But since then, through reams of anti-terror law and attempts to control asylum and antisocial behaviour, she has forgotten what the “civil” in that historic title meant. Liberty’s guiding principle should be John Stuart Mill’s advice that “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.” By championing the errant individual to the detriment of the majority she ignores it completely.

Few mistakes better illustrate this debilitating flaw than Liberty’s backing for Graeme Chessum, the Nottinghamshire man banned from his local pubs for behaving aggressively towards staff at one of them. The Pubwatch scheme under which he is excluded is a fine example of community action against antisocial conduct. As such it achieves the utilitarian ideal of the greatest good of the greatest number. By threatening to challenge it under human rights legislation Liberty extends beyond absurdity its director’s faith that high profile is preferable to high principle.


Working mothers need the free market, too

By John Stossel

Last week, my "20/20" co-anchor, Elizabeth Vargas, returned from maternity leave. Her first story was on the "mommy wars." "Why," Elizabeth asked, "has so little been done on issues like paid maternity leave; safe, affordable child care; and flexible work schedules?"

I understand her pain. Elizabeth has a lot of responsibility: a full-time job, plus two young kids at home. I would find it overwhelming. But does that mean the government should impose leave, day care, and flex-time policies on employers or make taxpayers bear the cost for the choices women make?

No! All these well-intended laws have unintended consequences, and the consequences are usually worse than the problem they were meant to solve. When governments require companies to provide paid maternity leave and other benefits, many firms avoid hiring women. How is that good for women?

But Elizabeth got support from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who said government has to take charge. "Listen, we did that on child labor laws," he said. "If we'd left it up to business alone to decide that, I suspect there would have been many who would still be employing infants." Even if Dodd were right that it took government to end child labor - there's evidence to suggest he's not - is he saying women need to be protected like children? That hardly sounds enlightened. Dodd says businesses wouldn't suffer under his mandate because "in every study that's been done on areas of productivity, profitability and growth, 90 percent of the employers [who provide such amenities] have reported either no negative impact or actually a positive benefit."

Gee, if that's true, why do we need a government mandate? If offering paid leave and day care is good for companies, they will offer those benefits. Some do already. But other companies think the burden of such promises would bankrupt them. I wouldn't dismiss that concern so quickly. People who risk their own capital make better decisions than a politician who imposes policies on others with little risk to himself.

Elizabeth pointed out that most countries have "family friendly" laws paid for by the taxpayers. But women in those countries pay a price. In Europe, the unemployment rate for women is over 10 percent - double the rate in the United States. From 1970 to 2003, employment in the United States increased 75 percent, by 58.9 million jobs. Yet in France, Germany and Italy, where many job benefits are mandated, employment grew only 26 percent, by 17.6 million jobs. And many of those new jobs were in government!

If a woman wants a career and a family, that's great. But why must government force other people to help her out? Forcing companies to behave in a certain way just limits the marketplace of possibilities.

Leaving workplace choices to women and employers creates better opportunities for both. The forthcoming book by Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women's Forum, "Women's Progress: How Women Are Wealthier, Healthier and More Independent Than Ever Before" points out that American women have never enjoyed more options or such a high quality of life. From 1997 to 2002, the number of female-owned businesses climbed 20 percent to 6.5 million firms.

That happened because in America, despite numerous attempts by bureaucrats to kill it, the entrepreneurial spirit lives. Let's not suffocate it with government rules that will only reduce women's choices.

It's wrong for politicians to treat women like damsels in need of rescue from the whims of employers. Women need what all of us need: the freedom to make decisions for themselves in a competitive marketplace.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Britain: School helper who refused to remove her veil is sacked

A teaching assistant who refused to remove her Muslim veil in the classroom has been sacked. Aishah Azmi’s dismissal from a Church of England primary school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, followed a lengthy period of suspension over her insistence on wearing the niqab in lessons led by a male teacher. She had already failed to persuade an employment tribunal that she was a victim of religious discrimination and harassment by Kirklees local education authority.

Mrs Azmi, 24, said that it was her Islamic duty to wear the black veil, which covered her face except for a narrow slit at the eyes, in the presence of adult males who were not her blood relatives.

Headfield Junior School argued that its pupils, many of whom are learning to speak English, found it difficult to understand what Mrs Azmi was saying when her mouth was hidden.

In a statement issued yesterday, the LEA said that the school governing body’s staff dismissals committee had recently held a hearing to discuss Mrs Azmi’s case.

“As a result of the hearing, the committee decided to terminate the employment of the employee concerned,” it said.

Shahid Malik, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, said that the Azmi case had not been about religion but about seeking the best possible education for children at the school.

More than 90 per cent of Headfield’s pupils are Muslim, many of them learning English as a second language.

Earlier this year, Ofsted criticised “exceptionally low” standards of achievement by pupils and said that many of the school’s difficulties were caused by “speech and communication problems”.

Mr Malik said: “I’m obviously disappointed that a compromise could not be reached. While I defend her right to wear the veil in society, it’s very clear that her wearing the veil in the classroom inhibits her ability to support children.”

When she was observed during lessons, the tribunal heard that, “it was readily apparent that the children were seeking visual clues from her which they could not obtain because they could not see her facial expressions”.

Mrs Azmi did not wear the veil when she was interviewed for the Headfield post, nor at her first training day, but problems arose soon after she started work on a one-year fixed contract last September. Although the school’s other female Muslim teachers wore a headscarf, Mrs Azmi insisted on wearing the niqab.

Mrs Azmi taught at the school for only a few weeks before being told that she must be unveiled during lessons. Soon after she went on long-term sick leave due to stress. She was suspended on full pay in February and took her case against the school to an employment tribunal which sat for four days in July.

Kirklees LEA renewed Mrs Azmi’s one-year contract after it expired on August 31, even though she was under suspension at the time.

When the tribunal issued its findings last month, it rejected her claims of discrimination and harassment but awarded her £1,000 for “injury to feelings” caused by the way her case was handled.

Mrs Azmi, whose appearance before the tribunal was a test case brought under new religious discrimination regulations, vowed to continue her fight for the right to wear the niqab.

She attacked the Government for treating ethnic minorities “as outcasts” and said that she was “fearful for the consequences for Muslim women in this country”.

Mrs Azmi’s lawyer, Nick Whittingham, of the Kirklees Law Centre, said that he had not yet received a decision in writing following this week’s disciplinary hearing.


Multicultural Manners: Removing a full-face veil at work is simply politeness

Quite a long time ago, having briefly joined the herd of twentysomething backpackers who eternally roam Southeast Asia, I found myself in Bali. Like all the other twentysomethings, I carefully read the Lonely Planet backpacker's guide to Indonesia and learned, among other things, that it was considered improper for women to wear shorts or trousers when entering Balinese temples. I dutifully purchased a Balinese sarong and, looking awkward and foreign, wore it while visiting temples. I didn't want to cause offense.

I thought of that long-ago incident while in London last week, where a full-fledged shouting match has broken out over Islamic women who choose to wear the veil. This particular argument began when a Yorkshire teaching assistant refused to remove her full-face veil-a niqab, which covers the whole face except for the eyes-in the presence of male teachers, which was much of the time. She was fired, she went to court, and a clutch of senior British politicians entered the fray.

Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, called the full-face veil a "visible statement of separation and of difference." Prime Minister Tony Blair added that he could "see the reasons" for the teaching assistant to be suspended from her job. What followed was predictable: accusations of racism, charges of discrimination, and disagreement about whether the veil was even a valid topic of discussion. If Blair and Straw are really concerned about the fate of Islamic women, shouldn't they be more interested in underage marriages, or wife beating, or something more important?

The short answer is yes, probably the politicians should be interested in something more important. But the curious fact is that the veil won't go away as a political issue. The French have banned not only the full veil but also head scarves in schools. Some German regions have banned the head scarf for civil servants, and they are not permitted in Turkish universities at all. Slowly, the issue is coming to the United States: Just this month, a Michigan judge dismissed a small-claims court case filed by a Muslim woman because she refused to remove her full-face veil. Critics call the veil a symbol of female oppression or of a rejection of Western values. Defenders say the veil is a symbol of religious faith and that it allows women to be "free" in a different sense-free from cosmetics, from fashion, and from unwanted male attention. Debate about the veil inevitably leads to discussions of female emancipation, of religious freedom, and of the assimilation, or lack thereof, of Muslim communities in the West.

And yet, at a much simpler level, surely it is also true that the full-face veil-the niqab, burqa, or chador-causes such deep reactions in the West not so much because of its political or religious symbolism, but because it is extremely impolite. Just as it is considered rude to enter a Balinese temple wearing shorts, so, too, is it considered rude, in a Western country, to hide one's face. We wear masks when we want to frighten, when we are in mourning, or when we want to conceal our identities. To a Western child-or even an adult-a woman clad from head to toe in black looks like a ghost. Thieves and actors hide their faces in the West; honest people look you straight in the eye.

Given that polite behavior is required of schoolteachers or civil servants in other facets of their jobs, it doesn't seem to me in the least offensive to ask them to show their faces when dealing with children or the public. If Western tourists can wear sarongs in Balinese temples to show respect for the locals, so, too, can religious Islamic women show respect for the children they teach and for the customers they serve by leaving their head scarves on but removing their full-face veils.

It would, of course, be outrageous if Tony Blair or the French government were to ban veils altogether-just as it is, of course, outrageous that Saudi Arabia bans churches and even forbids priests from entering the country. But just because Christians and Jews are persecuted in some parts of the Muslim world doesn't mean we need to emulate them. In their private lives, Muslim women living in the West should be free to cover or uncover their faces, using veils or head scarves, as they wish.

Still, freedom to practice religion in the West shouldn't imply freedom to hold jobs that impinge on that practice. An Orthodox Jew should not have an absolute right to work in a restaurant that is open only on Saturdays. A Quaker cannot join the Army and then state that his religion prohibits him from fighting. By the same token, a Muslim woman who wants to cover her face has no absolute right to work in a school or an office where face-to-face conversations are part of the job. It isn't religious discrimination or anti-Muslim bias to tell her that she must be polite to the natives, respect the local customs, try to speak some of the local patois-and uncover her face.


Why We Hate Identity Politics

(From Taranto)

Our item Wednesday about an incident in which airline passengers were alarmed by a group of imams praying in Arabic brought this interesting comment from reader Dennis Gibb:

"Recently, my wife and I were on a trip to Europe and we changed planes at Kennedy Airport. When we reported for our overseas flight, we found that we were accompanied by a large number of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are a familiar sight in New York with their beards, long sideburns, black clothing and hats. As we sat waiting for the flight, the rabbi with the Jewish men announced that they were all going to perform their normal sundown prayer early because they did not want to frighten anyone on the plane with what might, to the uninformed, have sounded like an Arabic prayer.

It is so PC that these supposed Islamic scholars have so little sensitivity to what is happening in the world that they would insist on imposing actual Arabic prayers on an airplane filled with people uniformed as to the reason or the nature of the activity?

This is an excellent point. Look at the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Web site, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any indication that CAIR cares about the feelings of Americans who, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, have perfectly understandable apprehensions about being on a plane with Arab men chanting "Allah, Allah." We're not arguing that the passengers were in the right, only that if they overreacted, their overreaction was understandable in light of recent history. By demanding sensitivity while refusing to offer any in return, CAIR is behaving boorishly, abusing the good nature of the American character.

Practitioners of identity politics not only act like jackasses while insisting that they are entitled to sensitivity. They also claim to advocate "diversity" while demanding that others march in ideological lockstep. The Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn., reports on one example:

It started out as a who's who of Twin Cities law firms joining forces to lure minority attorneys to Minnesota. But the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice group set off a tempest when it excluded a firm that handled a pair of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging affirmative action. The group's leaders said letting the Minneapolis law firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand join the effort would hamper its mission: to make the bar more racially diverse. . . .

Maslon's managing attorney said she and others in her firm were mystified by the group's decision to deny them membership. "We agree with their mission, absolutely agree with their mission," said Terri Krivosha, chairwoman of the Maslon firm's governance committee. . . .

The controversy centers on Maslon attorney Kirk Kolbo, who represented three University of Michigan applicants--two for an undergraduate program and one for the law school--who sued as part of a class action because of the school's raced-based admissions policies.

If Maslon itself had colorblind hiring policies, the exclusion would make sense, but Krivosha tells the paper that her firm is committed to "diversity": "We are moving on to work for an inclusive legal community and an inclusive law firm. Diversity is a bedrock of our firm." But the Twin Cities DIP group insists the firm be ideologically pure in its choice of clients

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Its stupid policy of allowing non-Christian religious attire only was asking for trouble

Ms Eweida, a former member of BA's check-in staff who has lost her appeal to wear a tiny cross outside her uniform, has become a Christian cause celebre. She has the support of nearly 100 MPs. More worryingly for BA, churches are railing against the airline. There is talk of a Christian boycott of the airline worldwide. Only for the worldly is it still the world's favourite airline.

British Airways is at fault. For it is mishandling for a religious issue, betraying both its multicultural principles and a huge potential market. For, Ms Eweida not only has a strong argument of freedom of religious expression on her side, but also hundreds of millions of potential passengers. The 2001 census showed that 71.1 per cent of Britons identify themselves as Christians. According to Aquarius, a marketing consultancy focused on religious affairs, there are 2.1 billion people who call themselves Christian, by comparison with 1.1 billion who describe themselves as secular, non-religious, agnostic or atheist. The devout represent a powerful market: The Passion of the Christ has grossed $613 million at box offices worldwide.

British Airways has previously struggled with icons. When it came to removing the flag from the tailfin, it underestimated patriotism. Now, it has misunderstood the nature of modern faith. There are a growing number of Christians who feel threatened by secularism. Spiritually, the world is more polarised and politicised. Christians, particularly evangelicals, are adopting the activist habits of other religious communities.

By sticking to its guidelines on uniforms, BA is insensitively, perhaps unintentionally, appearing to use its professional code to make a secular case. People of faith expect not just tolerance, but respect. BA needs to show it.


UN Violence Report: Laced with Myths and Misandry

Kofi Annan will be stepping down from his secretary-general position in a few short weeks. Annan's resum, features such highlights as the 1994 Rwanda massacre, the Oil-for-Food mega-scandal, and his molly-coddling of aides accused of personal misconduct. But Kofi had one more trick up his sleeve. Last week he released his long-awaited report bearing the grandiloquent title, the Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Women. Even by United Nations' standards, the report is an embarrassment.

The World Health Organization has documented that 14% of men die of violence-related causes, compared to only 7% of women. And dating violence researcher Murray Strauss has shown that women around the world are twice as likely to initiate severe violence as men. Sounds to me like men are the higher-risk group. But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the United Nations, the shrill message is, "Violence against women persists in every country of the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality." Apparently men's higher death rate doesn't comport with the UN's gender equality agenda.

Throughout the document, truth-twisting and myth-mongering run amok. On page 31, for instance, the report claims that women around the world suffer from economic inequalities -- thus sidestepping the fact that the "feminization of poverty" myth was debunked long ago.

On page 42 we're told, "The majority of the victims of human trafficking are women and children." Wrong again. The recent United Nations report, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, noted, "it is men especially who might be expected to be trafficked for forced labor purposes." On page 44, Annan recounts the victimization that women in armed conflict endure, somehow ignoring the uncomfortable fact that men are three times more likely to die of war-related injuries than women.

Although the report claims to be opposed to violence against women, it repeatedly calls for violence directed against unborn baby girls, just so long as it goes under the rubric of "reproductive health services." Don't expect the Motley Matrons of Mischief to be logical. And so it goes.

But the UN report goes beyond hoary myths, half-truths, and bald-faced lies. It also seethes with anti-male misandry. For the conspiracy theorists who believe that brutish males are to blame for all the woes of world, the report will come as music to their ears. The shrieking begins on page 28 where we are warned, "Patriarchy has been entrenched in social and cultural norms, institutionalized in the law and political structures and embedded in local and global economies." That's a remarkable statement, considering that when men get voted into power, the first thing they do is to pass laws that benefit the ladies. Ever heard of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? All three are massive social welfare programs that were enacted by men -- primarily to benefit poor and elderly women. Start telling that patriarchal oppressor stuff to the men who risk life and limb toiling at dead-end jobs so their families can lead more comfortable lives. And can someone explain to me why those haughty patriarchs end up dying five years sooner than their wives?

Once you start to believe in the grand patriarchal plot, the mind clouds over and facts become irrelevant. It becomes a convenient boogeyman to infuriate women and bludgeon the consciences of fair-minded men.

Three years ago I documented how the rad-fems were operating behind the scenes, ever extending their baleful tentacles throughout the UN system. Even though those women never hesitated to spread their Ms.-Information, they were careful to conceal their real intentions. But the Study on Violence Against Women opens up the debate. Never before have the UN feminists advanced the patriarchy theory so boldly. Never before have they presented their Marxist-inspired views in such a high-profile UN publication. And never before have they tried to stereotype and smear men in such a calculated manner. History teaches that when a segment of society is viewed as dangerous, the next step is to strip away their civil rights and expel them from their communities. Have we forgotten the lessons of religious minorities in central Europe in the 1940s?

But the feminist attack is even more hideous, because it seeks to undermine the family, the heart of an orderly and moral society. Call it the newest front in the escalating Culture War. It's directed at men, women, and children. And it aims to destroy the traditional family. So on December 31 Kofi Annan, former tourism director from Ghana, will move on, secure in the knowledge that he indeed left his mark on the world, for better or for worse.


OK to mock Catholics?

The same tribunal previously held that it was illegal to mock Islam

Is telling Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott to keep his rosaries off a women's ovaries freedom of speech or religious vilification? A member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will judge when he either allows or strikes out a claim by Right-to-Lifer Babette Francis, who wants controversial T-shirts sporting the slogan banned. Mrs Francis claims T-shirts bearing the words "Mr Abbott, keep your rosaries off my ovaries" vilify Catholics and incite violence.

The YWCA, which makes the T-shirts, fought yesterday to have her legal action struck out, arguing it fails to meet the strict parameters of the Racial and Religious Vilification Act. Barrister for the YWCA, Melanie Young, said the words were a metaphorical expression used during robust debate and did not incite hatred, severe ridicule or serious contempt. The T-shirts sparked widespread outrage when one was worn into Parliament by Greens senator Kerry Nettle during heated debate over who should control the abortion drug RU486.

Representing herself in her VCAT claim, Mrs Francis said yesterday the words offended her, vilified Catholics and stirred anti-Catholic bigotry. "For a Christian organisation like the YWCA to stir up that type of bigotry is outrageous," she told the hearing yesterday. Mrs Francis argued that some people would interpret the slogan literally, believing Catholics would literally place their hands on a woman's ovaries. She said some people who didn't accept Catholicism might find certain church practices, such as the sprinkling of holy water, as "weird". Mrs Francis wants the YWCA to stop making the T-shirts and make a $10 donation to Helpers of God's Precious Infants.

But Ms Young said some people would find the slogan witty, others would say it was an astute metaphor and some would say it was offensive. VCAT senior member Rohan Walker will hand down his decision on whether or not to strike out Mrs Francis's claim at a later date.


Sydney Christmas celebrations restored

Worries about "offending" Muslims seem to have been dumped

Asian tourists recognised the bearded man in the suit as the wheeled sleigh made its way down Sydney's George Street. "Santa" and "Merry Christmas" they called as they took photographs of the carriage drawn by two police on horses with antlers on. The sleigh had pulled out of Sydney Town Hall five minutes ahead of its scheduled 8pm departure, because Nita Lyon's 21-month-old daughter was screaming at the sight of the red-suited gent.

Ms Lyons, her daughter and son Kaylan sat facing the jolly bearded man who had one arm locked in a jovial embrace around Clover Moore, wearing a red silk top and black slacks. No one seemed to recognise her as Sydney's Lord Mayor. They thought Ms Moore, who has participated in many a Gay Mardi Gras and was the inspiration one year of a float, was most likely Mrs Claus.

But last night was her night of redemption in the hearts of more than 8000 of the city's children and their parents who turned out in Martin Place to see the lights of a 20 metre Christmas Tree brighten the city tower scape.

Last night Lord Mayor Moore, who two years ago was branded the "Grinch" for cutting back dramatically on the council's festive season bunting displays, showed there is no bah hum bug in her. Sydney City Council is spending $500,000 this year on public displays and decorations.

As the "sleigh" turned into Martin Place Ms Moore, Santa, and Ms Lyons and her children, from the Redfern community centre, were greeted by a happy ovation of "Santa, Santa, Santa" from thousands of beaming children's faces, many held aloft in their parents' arms.

Among the most chuffed was five year old Zachary Lewis of Parklea who won a Sun Herald coloring competition to help Ms Moore turn on the 19,000 lights of Sydney's Martin Place Christmas tree to the cheers of the crowd as sky rockets burst overhead. He just beamed with happiness and was lost for words as he clutched a special unopened present given to him by Ms Moore. "He's absolutely smitten with excitement, he got to meet Santa," his father Gordon, an IT specialist said.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Boston University group offers white scholarship

Looking to draw attention to what they call the "worst form of bigotry confronting America today," Boston University's College Republicans are circulating an application for a "Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship" that requires applicants be at least 25 percent Caucasian. "Did we do this to give a scholarship to white kids? Of course not," the scholarship reads. "Did we do it to trigger a discussion on what we believe to be the morally wrong practice of basing decisions in our schools and our jobs on racial preferences rather than merit? Absolutely." The scholarship, which is privately funded by the BUCR without the support of the university, is meant to raise awareness, group members say. BUCR member argue that racial preferences are a form of "bigotry." The group has a similar view on affirmative action.

The application for the $250 scholarship, due Nov. 30, requires applicants be full-time BU undergraduate students and one-fourth Caucasian and maintain at least a 3.2 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit two essays, one describing the applicant's ancestry and one describing "what it means to you to be a Caucasian-American today."

BUCR President Joe Mroszczyk said he spoke to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore before publicly releasing the scholarship to make sure it would be legal. Mroszczyk said BUCR members also talked to others beforehand, some of whom were initially "agitated or upset" but understood the point after members explained themselves, he said. "If you give out a white scholarship, it's racist, and if you give out a Hispanic scholarship, it is OK," the College of Arts and Sciences senior said. "It is the main point. We are not doing this scholarship as a white-supremacy scholarship."

La Fuerza Co-Chair Sara-Marie Pons, who is also on the Admissions Student Diversity Board, said although she agrees with BUCR's claim that racial preference is "contradictory to our American ideals of freedom and equality," she feels American history justifies today's affirmative action." Our country oppressed people of color for centuries while everyone else who was 'preferred' continued to succeed and lead our country in all aspects," the School of Management senior said in an email. "The goal of a university in striving to admit more students of color is a positive movement to increase the diversity of its institution."

Pons said the university's diversity creates a "better learning environment" and "dynamic discussion." She said she believes minority-specific scholarships serve an important function. "While I can see the controversy over scholarships toward specific ethnic groups, we need to keep in mind its intention," she said. "The [group-specific] scholarship is there to increase the interest of students in that group to continue their education and reach the equality that we all strive for."

After the recipient is chosen, BUCR plans to host an event to honor the winner and speak about the award, as well as hold a forum discussion about racial preference, Mroszczyk said. Mroszczyk said the BUCR borrowed the scholarship idea from the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., which sponsored a similar award in 2003. Former RWU College Republicans President Jason Mattera said the "whites-only" scholarship was meant to be a parody, but it brought harsh media attention to their campus.

Mattera, now the Young American's Foundation National Spokesman, a group supporting the conservative movement, said the idea was spurred when RWU administrators "compiled a list of scholarships for people of color only." Although Mattera, a Puerto Rican, would have been eligible for some of these scholarships, he said he still wanted to "expose the inequities."

RWU College Republicans adviser June Speakman said the organization started receiving complaints as soon as it released the scholarship. Despite protests, 15 students applied for the scholarship. "It was a way to make their protests highly visible, provocative," she said. "They stuck to their guns. They were steadfast."

Speakman said the scholarship was discontinued after its first year when the national and state Republican parties severed ties with RWU College Republicans. Mattera said people were aware the scholarship had "nothing to do with racism," but the Republican National Committee still did not want to be affiliated with the scholarship. "The RNC under [former chair] Ed Gillespie disagreed with me," Mattera said. "For Ed Gillespie to be dismissive or to imply that there was racism, he lacked any type of -- to put it bluntly -- balls in standing up against racial preferences. It would have been a great opportunity."

Regarding BU's adaptation of this scholarship, Mattera said he is glad the BUCR is interested in continuing to promote awareness. "I guarantee that once this happens, be ready for hypocritical charges of racism, and be ready to be attacked," Mattera said, "but once they attack you, the hypocrisy is exposed."


Breastfeeding incorrect?

Hatred of normal family life?

It's ironic that since a lot of US airlines - airlines everywhere, actually - treat you like cattle that they also might get a bit squeamish over the thought of a dairy. But last month a nursing mother was ejected from a plane about to take off in Vermont because she was trying to breastfeed her baby

The extraordinary tale has sparked a discrimination complaint from the mother, Emily Gillette, and a huge embarrassment for the airline, Delta. The brouhaha here has also sparked a form of protest being dubbed "lactivism". Over the past week there's been rolling breastfeeding sit-ins where dozens of nursing mothers position themselves in front of the Delta airline counters in protest and, like maternal gunslingers, unleash their bosoms and latch on their babies.

Ms Gillette, her husband Brad, and their then 22-month-old daughter, River, were removed from an October flight from Burlington to New York after a flight attendant asked Ms Gillette to cover up while she was breastfeeding the girl. Freedom Airlines was operating the flight on behalf of Delta Air Lines. Ms Gillette, 27, filed a complaint against both airlines with the Vermont Human Rights Commission alleging that the airline violated a state law that allows women to breastfeed "in any place of public accommodation".

Ms Gillette told USA Today she took a window seat in the second-last row and her husband took the aisle. She began nursing River, using one hand to hold her shirt closed. She told the newspaper: "I was not exposed." But the flight attendant approached, tried to hand her a blanket and asked her to cover herself, she recalls. "You're offending me," Ms Gillette quotes the woman as saying. "I'm not doing anything wrong and I will not cover up," Ms Gillette says she said in response. Ms Gillette says the flight attendant walked away and a few minutes later, a ticket agent boarded and said the flight attendant had ordered them removed. The airline arranged for a hotel for the family for the night and a flight with a different airline the next morning.

"No woman should ever be ashamed of breastfeeding," Ms Gillette says. She wants "both airlines to create policies that protect a woman from being harassed for feeding her child on an airplane". Freedom Airlines spokesman Paul Skellon says breastfeeding on a plane is OK if it's done in a "discreet way".

Forty-three states in the US have instituted rights for women breastfeeding. This reporter's wife was told last year to cease breastfeeding in a public hall of a federal office, despite laws saying it is legal to do so. Congress passed a right to breastfeed in 1999, which governs all federal buildings and parks.


In Defense of Spiderman

By Glenn Sacks

The mayor of London compares him to Osama bin Laden. He's been dubbed a "menace" holding a city for "ransom," as well as a lunatic and an extremist. What has 36 year-old David Chick done to arouse such anger? He loves his little daughter, from whom he's been forcibly separated, and he had the courage to do something about it.

The now world famous Englishman recently ended his traffic stopping, six day, one man protest atop a 150 foot high crane near the Tower Bridge in London. Dressed as Spiderman because he is his two year-old daughter's favorite comic book character, Chick says his daughter's mother has not allowed him to see his girl for eight months and has tried to alienate her from him. Interviewed by English newspapers, the ex-girlfriend admits blocking the standard yet paltry twice a month visitation which English courts have granted Chick. To date, she has declined to offer a reason publicly.

Chick is one of hundreds of thousands of English fathers who have been cut off from their children after divorce or separation. Their voices have crystallized into a widely popular campaign by the activist group Fathers 4 Justice. This campaign seeks to reform the family law system to allow divorced and unwed fathers to play a meaningful role in their children's lives.

The English Lord Chancellor's Department admits that mothers win custody in about four-fifths of all cases in English and Welsh courts, and English courts are notorious for their failure to enforce fathers' visitation rights. According to Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, "some senior judges recently acknowledged that with so many contact [visitation] orders being flouted by mothers, the law is being brought into disrepute."

When one judge recently did transfer care of a child from the child's alienating mother to the father, it was such an event that it merited inclusion in Phillips' column. In reality, these types of transfers should be more common, and would no doubt have a salutary effect on the behavior of parents who try to prevent their children from seeing their exes.

Chick's plight will sound familiar to many American fathers. According to the Children's Rights Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, more than five million American children each year have their access to their noncustodial parents interfered with or blocked by custodial parents. And while politicians and the media hammer away at absent fathers on both sides of the Atlantic, they too often fail to examine the critical role that family courts and vengeful exes play in creating the problem.

To the minimal extent that defenders of the current system have been forced to justify mothers' actions, they claim--as the mayor of London now does--that these men often should not have access to their children.

This is no doubt true on occasion, but is inaccurate in most cases of access and visitation denial. Those opposing fathers' rights claim they are defending women and children from abusive fathers. However, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the vast majority of child abuse, parental murder of children, child neglect, and child endangerment are committed by mothers, not fathers. In addition, decades of research, including that carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health, show that women are just as likely to be violent towards their spouses as men are.

According to Carol Plummer, Chick's sister, "David would never harm his daughter or Jo [the ex-girlfriend]. He doesn't want custody of his daughter, he just wants to see her. But Jo is making him suffer by depriving him of seeing his daughter, who is his life."

Though one can sense a smear campaign against Chick on the horizon, two weeks of digging for dirt on him have turned up little. He was convicted of cannabis possession three years ago and of public indecency (for consensual sexual activity) while a teenager. According to Chick's brother Steven Reed, in the cannabis conviction David took the rap for his ex-girlfriend.

Chick says: "[My daughter] is the most precious thing in my world. I was there for the scans when she was still in the womb, I was there for her birth. I fed her, bathed her, got up in the night with her, cuddled her when she cried. "Now I'm just another statistic--another dad who has no part in his daughter's life. For me, it is a living bereavement."

Today fathers in England, America and most of the Western world stand upon a foundation of sand, knowing that our loved ones can be ripped away from us and there is often little we can do about it. We invest our lives in the children we love and tell them that we will always be there for them. But in the back of our minds we can't help but think of a question which Spiderman no doubt considered before he began his ascent up that crane hanging over Tower Bridge: will we be allowed to?


Australia: Hatred of Christian political party

A hate campaign has emerged in the eastern suburbs as vandals link the Family First party to the American white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan. Mitcham candidate Miriam Rawson was this week shocked to find KKK had been scrawled on her Blackburn North billboard and a white hood painted over her face. It was the third time the billboard had been vandalised, and four other signs have been stolen.

But Ms Rawson, 28, a teacher and first-time candidate, believes it was not a personal attack but a vicious campaign against the party's values. "Everybody knows that we need to rebuild our schools, but when you start to touch on issues such as looking to reduce the number of abortions in Victoria . . . that starts to push a few buttons," she said. "Obviously there's something that's made them react to what Family First is about so violently they've felt they've had to express themselves that way."

Ms Rawson, who has filed a complaint with Nunawading police, challenged the "cowards" to come forward. "I'd be quite happy to face them in an open debate in public," she said. "Let them have their say and I can respond in a mature, non-criminal way. "When I first saw it I thought, 'Why are you doing this to me?' "But something inside me went, 'I'm going to campaign even harder,' and I have been. It's been almost like a blessing in disguise."


Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Sloppy Thinking of Affirmative Action Defenders

Comment from Sweden by Stefan Karlsson

I have previously on this blog adressed the injustice of affirmative action- and the negative effects of it in three countries that has it: America, South Africa and Malaysia.

Recently, affirmative action lost big in Michigan. Despite being badly outspent and opposed by both the Democratic and Republican establishment, by big media, by big business (including the big 3 car makers in Detroit who despite their financial troubles thought they could afford to sponsor the no-camp), by the unions and by the clergy, the proposition to ban affirmative action in Michigan won an overwhelming victory, 58 to 42.

I have now stumbled upon a piece by left-liberal columnist Gene Sperling, who attacked the proposition in Michigan and defended affirmative action. It is a quite instructive example of the faulty thinking underlying affirmative action. He for example claims that a measure designed to ensure that people are treated according to their qualifications will reduce the number of skilled people. Rather odd claim since it is always the most qualified who has the best chance of learning the skills taught at universities. So how does he motivate it? Well, like this:

"First, the MCRI would impede our capacity to deal with projected skills gaps in our workforce. A bipartisan Aspen Institute report, led by David Ellwood, dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, found that the U.S. pool of workers aged 25-64, which grew 44 percent over the last 20 years, won't expand in the next 20. Meanwhile, blacks, Hispanics and women -- groups underrepresented in the areas of science and engineering -- will make up a bigger proportion of our workforce.

To increase the pool of skilled workers in areas critical to our economy, we need an all-out national effort to boost the percentages of women and minorities who want degrees in science, engineering and math."

As for the first part about the projected stagnation in the labor force, I don't see how that is really relevant for the admission criterias. As long as the number of admitted students is the same it doesn't matter what admission criterias you have for that fixed number of seats.

Or actually, since surely the number of graduates rather than the number of freshmen students is what matters, criterias based on qualifications will best help meet any skill shortage since qualified students are much more likely to be able to graduate.

The experience from California after they abolished affirmative action is that while admission of blacks and hispanics dropped sharply at elite universities, the graduation rate of those that remained rose sharply. And more importantly, overall black and hispanic university admissions did not fall as they instead attended less demanding universities. And with the course being less demanding, the total number of black and hispanic graduates increased significantly after affirmative action was abolished.

Meanwhile, the number of white and Asian graduates also rose. The experience from California shows conclusively that affirmative action at universities reduces, not increases the number graduates of all races including blacks and hispanics.

As for the second part about how blacks, hispanics and women will be a higher proportion of the workforce in the future, that will indeed imply a less skilled workforce provided the average skills of the specific race and gender groups are raised.

But if we are to remedy that, what's needed is improved educational performance of blacks and hispanics in elementary school and high school. Trying to pretend the performance gap from lower levels of education doesn't exist when deciding admission criterias will not do any good-as affirmative action will again only mean fewer graduates.

Moreover, what in case will be needed is more skilled students-whether they're black, hispanic, white, Asian or whatever. Further increasing the number of white or Asian graduates will be just as good for the economy as increasing the number of black and hispanic students even if the black/hispanic share of the workforce increases (There are certainly room for that as there are many whites/Asians who aren't college graduates). Sperling has another line of argument , namely:

"Second, the MCRI ignores the business case for diversity, made by Fortune 500 companies in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger that unsuccessfully challenged the University of Michigan Law School's policy of considering race as one factor in admissions.

As the Fortune 500 brief says, ``today's global marketplace and the increasing diversity in the American population demand cross-cultural experience and understanding.''

For our nation's businesses, competing in the global economy places a premium not only on diverse workforces, but on workers who can thrive in racially and ethnically diverse contexts. This point is critical because it underscores the fact that a diverse student body benefits both minority and white students by giving everyone the chance to form friendships with those from different geographic, ethnic and racial backgrounds."

First of all, to think that ideas are innate to certain races and that diversity of ideas require racial diversity is in fact a blatantly racist concept, as Michael Berliner and Gary Hull of the Ayn Rand Institute points out. And as this racist concept is false, there is no evidence that racial diversity will boost competitiveness. Japan, South Korea and China are ultra competitive, scaring the shit out of American business who in desperation go to Washington D.C. for assistance in the form of protective tariffs. And yet Japan and South Korea is two of the world's most homogenus societies, and so are for all practical purposes China too (Most of China's non-Chinese minorities are in poor, marginalized provinces like Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia)

He then carries on by saying: "Supporters of the MCRI, such as its author Ward Connerly, chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, believe that we should see the slightest consideration of racial diversity as the moral and legal equivalent of our most pernicious past practices of discrimination. Yet, our shameful history of excluding, segregating and imposing second-class citizenship on minorities shouldn't be used as a rationale to handcuff universities from taking steps to ensure a racially diverse student body."

And why not? On that, he says nothing. Racial discrimination is always irrational, regard of whether it is against blacks or against whites and Asians.


Homosexuality and Income Inequality

By Don Boudreaux

In this popular YouTube video, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (aka: Borat) is in his gay fashonista character Bruno; Bruno is interviewing unsuspecting "gay converter" Pastor Quinn. When Bruno asks the Pastor why homosexuality is wrong -- "So why is being gay so out this season?" -- Pastor Quinn responds: "because there are people who find homosexuality to be repugnant to them."

Bad reason. Undoubtedly many people do find homosexuality to be "repugnant to them" -- but why should we care about these sentiments? It's a big world with lots of people. Inevitably, nearly every human activity, including many peaceful ones, will be repugnant to some people. Some activities more than others, of course, but so what? (Personally, it's very unpleasant for me to imagine my parents having sex -- "eewwww!" -- but I don't want to force them to sleep apart; I don't even want them to stop having sex.)

Civilized persons immediately understand that what consenting adults to with each other is no one else's business. The fact that some people find other people's peaceable activities to be repugnant, upsetting, immoral, unpleasant, odd, or whatever, is utterly irrelevant -- or should be utterly irrelevant. Person A's attitude about peaceable person B's actions is no justification for public policy aimed at saving person A from whatever disquiet he or she suffers as a result of person B's activities.

Now I have no idea what Pastor Quinn really does. If all he does is to offer his services to persons who come to him voluntarily, I have no real complaint (although I must say that I find it a tad bit repugnant).

Most self-described "liberals" and "progressives" would agree with all that I write above. So why do these "liberals" and "progressives" believe that income inequality is worthy of the state's attention? No doubt, they find income inequality repugnant. They don't like it and they want to do all that they can to rid society of it -- just as Pastor Quinn doesn't like homosexuality and wants to do all that he can to rid society of it.

One reason might be that some of these "liberals" and "progressives" believe that wealth is a fixed stock; the more that Bill Gates has the less that persons living in New Orleans's Ninth Ward have. Whether or not this is true is a factual question. But economics and history teach me that this fixed-stock-of-wealth view is robustly wrong. In a market-oriented society (which the U.S. still is), the pattern of income "distribution" that emerges is merely the consequence of uncountable numbers of peaceful, consensual capitalist acts (affected, it is true, by tax policy -- which takes more money from high-income earners than from low-income earners).

My sense is that most of the antagonism toward income inequality does not rest on the fixed-stock-of-wealth view. My sense is that most of this antagonism is surprisingly like the antagonism that Pastor Quinn and his flock have toward homosexuality: they find it repugnant and, therefore, conclude that their own sentiments are sufficient reason to try to solve the alleged problem. Bad reason.


If there's one thing far worse than the BNP, it is using a botched political prosecution of that far-right party as another stick to beat free speech and jury trials

Comment by Mick Hume

The state stages a transparent politically-motivated trial of weak opponents, in order to lay down the law on the limits of official tolerance. Unfortunately the authorities fail to persuade the jury, which finds the dissident politicians not guilty. In response to this embarrassing failure to get their way, government ministers declare that the law must be changed, in order to ensure that their enemies are found guilty of crimes against society next time.

To some, this might sound like the stuff of a police state in a ‘banana republic’, or perhaps of the sort of dystopian futuristic drama beloved of the BBC. But in fact it is what happened in the UK last week, when the leader of the British National Party was cleared of stirring up racial hatred by attacking Islam, and New Labour ministers had an authoritarian tantrum in response.

(However, it is funny you should mention the BBC, as the broadcasting corporation was heavily involved in this little piece of real-world political theatre – scarier than anything seen in its conspiracy dramas.)

The case was prompted by an undercover BBC documentary. The BBC secretly filmed a meeting of BNP supporters, during which Nick Griffin, the party leader, condemned Islam as ‘a wicked, vicious faith’. In the media-inspired furore that followed, Griffin and Mark Collett, BNP publicity director, were charged with incitement to racial hatred. Griffin repeated his views on Islam from the dock. After their first trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict. Last Friday a second jury found them both not guilty.

On hearing of this disgraceful display of independent thinking by the jurors of Yorkshire, New Labour and the rest of the anti-racist establishment immediately threw all of its toys out of the pram. No less a figure than chancellor Gordon Brown, prime minister in waiting and a man not noted for hot-blooded political speeches, immediately intimated to the BBC that this sort of thing would not be tolerated on his watch. ‘I think any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we have got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes. And if that means we have got to look at the laws again, then we will have to do so.’

Other New Labour ministers were quick to join the chorus, while one anti-racist campaign condemned the verdict as ‘a travesty of justice’ because ‘the BNP are guilty of inciting racial hatred’, as if the party should have been on trial for its views in general, rather than Griffin for anything specific he might have said or done. Insiders pointed out that the government’s attempt to introduce a tough law against incitement to religious hatred had been defeated earlier this year; surely the failure of this prosecution for incitement to racial hatred proved that law was needed now? And there were mutterings about the problem of trying such cases before unreliable juries – particularly when, as almost every report made clear, this was an ‘all-white’ jury.

Here on spiked we have no sympathy or time for racists. But this carry-on is far more worrying than anything the BNP might say. The political motives behind the prosecution were transparent. First the BBC played its self-appointed role as broadcasting wing of the Commission for Racial Equality, with a programme clearly scripted to ‘expose’ the fact that the BNP is not a friend of immigrants and Islam (shock horror!). Then the state stepped in and announced the decision to prosecute the BNP pair the day before the launch of last year’s General Election campaign – a campaign in which bashing the BNP became a ploy for all the major parties to demonstrate their decency. It now seems that even West Yorkshire police were concerned that this heavy-handed exercise would present the BNP with a ‘no-lose opportunity’, whatever the eventual outcome of the trial.

If there is one thing worse (and a lot worse) than the feeble far-right, it is the state using that little political faction as the pretext for another political clampdown on liberty and democracy. After all, it is not the BNP that is now planning to introduce new laws further to limit freedom of expression, laying down new rules about what we are allowed to say about religion, or floating ideas in high places about the ‘problem’ of jury trials. Griffin can only vent his illiberal prejudices at private meetings of his party activists. The government has the power to try to turn its illiberal prejudices into public custom and law.

Chancellor Brown’s statement that we cannot tolerate opinions which ‘offend mainstream opinion in this country’ sums up the outlook of the political class today. There is a powerful mood of conformism, of intolerant tolerance, an attitude of ‘You cannot say THAT!’ which seeks to restrict the terms of public debate. And in this climate, offending what is deemed to be ‘the mainstream’ often seems to be considered the worst offence of all. You can have all the ‘diversity’ you want, so long as it does not diverge too far from the centre. The mainstream is the only stream in town (see The age of intolerant tolerance, by Mick Hume).

As we have consistently argued on spiked, however, free speech is not divisible. Expression cannot be half-free. And the ‘freedom’ to say only what does not offend the mainstream is no freedom at all. Indeed, as champions of free speech from Mill to Orwell have long pointed out, it is only the fringe, ‘extreme’ or unconventional opinions that need protecting – mainstream opinion is quite capable of looking after itself.

If defending fully free speech is important as a general principle, it is also politically vital in the particular circumstances of today. The unresolved problems of division and tension in our society are not going to be addressed by burying them underground and forcing everybody to abide by an empty etiquette of tolerance. That is simply storing up more explosive trouble for the future. We need genuine tolerance that allows the expression of views with which you vehemently disagree, more clear opinions and sharp debate not less, a no-holds barred argument about the sort of society in which we want to live. That must involve the liberty to criticise Islam, Christianity or any other religion as wrong or even ‘wicked’ – the freedom for Griffin and the BNP to attack Islam, for Muslim radicals to denounce the Pope, or for Sir Elton John to call for a ban on all religion as homophobic. It also, of course, includes the freedom of religious types to tell the likes of me that we are going to hell.

The law on incitement is a dangerous instrument that needs to be handled with great care even when it applies to a real crime such as murder. When we are dealing with racial or religious hatred, however, incitement laws have no place. It is a peculiar situation where feeling hatred itself is, quite rightly, not a crime, but incitement to that non-crime can itself be deemed a criminal offence. The criminal law is here intruding into the realm of ideas and thought-policing, and it should be shown the door again. If a racist instructs somebody to go and attack a mosque, and hands him the petrol can, he should be held responsible. But if somebody were to hear the likes of Nick Griffin say Islam is wicked, and then takes it into his head to launch such an attack, the speaker cannot be held to account for the actions of another. However unpleasant words might be, we need to insist upon the distinction between speech and deed (see ‘Free speech’ is more than a slogan, by Dolan Cummings).

I recall a case from America a few years ago, where a racist firebrand who told a crowd of (largely armed) supporters that America would be better off without blacks and Jews was found not guilty of conspiracy to murder. As his defence lawyers argued, in a free society, so long as we are dealing with words rather than violent actions, people should be free to hate.

As I always have to insist at this point, we are not interested in upholding any human right to be racist. This is not primarily about Griffin and Co, it is about freedom for the rest of us – our liberty to listen to all of the arguments, stupid as well as sensible, and judge the truth for ourselves. That is the freedom the authorities now seem to fear most of all. The venom that they direct against the BNP reflects their fear that the simpleton white working classes are putty in the hands of such rabble-rousers. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, backed Brown’s call for a change in the law after last week’s case, on the ground that ‘what is being said to young Muslim people of this country is that we as a country are anti-Islam and we have got to demonstrate without compromising freedom that we are not’. It sounded as if he was suggesting that the BNP speaks for Britons! Solution? Shut them up – without compromising freedom, of course.

Whatever else it might be the BNP does not represent Nazism on the march. Indeed, in some ways it embodies an eccentric version of the fashionable political attitudes of the age: Griffin has welcomed the rise of the politics of ethnic diversity, in which whites vote BNP while Muslims vote RESPECT, and both he and Collett emerged from court wearing blue ribbons for their cause.

The BNP is an empty receptacle for the disaffection of sections of the white working class who have never read its programme, but feel intensely alienated from the mainstream of the political class. And this cack-handed attempt to crack down on its views from on high will hardly alter that state of affairs. Indeed, the tragedy is that the BNP has now been able to claim the high ground as the champion of free speech. It will have turned many a stomach to see Griffin standing on the steps of the court boasting that ‘They can’t take our FREEDOM!’ But the government’s response – to threaten to change the law to do just that – is more sickening, and can only make matters far worse.

It is high time we had a campaign for free speech and genuine tolerance, in defence of jury trials and democracy, and against illiberalism in all its forms, whether it is directed at immigrants or white voters. No doubt that might ‘offend mainstream opinion’, and upset New Labour as well as the BNP. But it’s a free country – isn’t it?